‘Sapper’ (otherwise H. C. McNeile) was a popular author in the years between the two World Wars, mainly writing ‘thrillers’ many of which featured his famous hero ‘Bulldog Drummond’.
However, during the Great War, and whilst he was still a fighting soldier, he wrote No Man’s Land, a book of ‘trench stories’ which ended thus :
Winnowed by the fan of suffering and death, the wheat of the harvest will shed its tares of discord and suspicion. The duke and the labourer will have stood side by side, and will have found one another – men. No longer self the only thing; no longer a ceaseless grouse against everybody and everything; no longer an instinctive suspicion of the man one rung higher up the ladder. But more self-reliant and cheery; stronger in character and bigger in outlook; with a newly acquired sense of self-control and understanding; in short, grown a little nearer to its maximum development, the manhood of the nation will be ripe for the moulder’s hand. It has tasted of discipline; it has realized that only by discipline can there be true freedom for the community; and that without that discipline, chaos is inevitable. Pray heavens there be a moulder – a moulder worthy of the task.
Now that was written primarily, of course, with an eye to the social situation; it was, after all, written just before the October Revolution plunged Russia into just over seventy years of turmoil, murder, and desolation; and at a time when – largely as a result of a developing liberalism of political and social thought – there were those in England whose eyes were on communism, which they believed to be a panacea for all ills.
However, when I came across it the other day, it occurred to me that it could stand true, also, in the context of the Catholic Church. A Church once strong in belief, ready for its sons and daughters to accept horrible deaths in the interest of preserving and promoting the Faith, has been riven by liberal opinions, and torn by self-interest and dangerous theology just as British Society was damaged by socialism and self-interest.
As we look forward to the Holy Father’s visit to Great Britain next month, we should consider what he has already done during his pontificate to restore the Church to its proper state; and perhaps give thank to God that in him we have a ‘moulder worthy of the task’.